I admit it. It has been years since I last set foot in an actual local gaming store. In fact, I probably have not had a gaming store to call my gaming store since the late 1980’s. That store was the Drowsy Dragon which was located on the east side of Columbus, Ohio. I guess you might be able to count Young’s Newsstand in Bowling Green, Ohio – but it was more newsstand than a full on gaming store.
About five years ago I made a tour of the local gaming shops in Columbus. I visited Ravenstone, The Guard Tower, and The Soldiery at the time. I was not super impressed on those trips and relented to just shopping online with little guilt. That is how I have been buying my gaming products since. I might pick up something at a con like Origins or Gen Con, but even those purchases were usually limited to dice or something of that nature.
Of the stores visited in my last tour around Columbus, The Guard Tower had the best selection at the time. But the place was cramped, it seemed to have a slight odor to it, and the customer service at the time just did not seem all that. I felt ignored, though to be honest I cannot quite put my finger on why I felt that at the time. But that is the feeling I left with.
Since that time I can be quoted on various message boards in threads dealing with FLGS’ that I wasn’t that impressed with the local selection. I just was not that impressed with the local offerings. Or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to justify my online buying habit.
Fast forward to today. Shortly after the advent of G+ communities I started one for RPG gamers in Ohio. Early on I asked for opinions on local gaming stores to Columbus. I received a lot of good responses and it was looking like The Guard Tower was towards the top of folks’ lists.
Add in that my son has an interest in RPGs and has never been to a real local gaming store and it was the perfect storm to get me back into a local gaming store. Today was the day. Based on the query to the Ohio RPG gamer community, The Guard Tower was first choice.
My son was looking for a hardcopy of the Pathfinder Bestiary 2. He has been saving for a bit and I was torn between him buying it at full price at the LGS or me getting it for him off of Amazon at a 34% discount. My wife, being the smart thinker she is, suggested me splitting the cost difference with him as a way to teach him that buying locally might cost a little more but explain why that was (i.e. store rent, heat costs, lighting costs, etc.). After explaining that to him off we we went.
We showed up early Sunday afternoon and the store was hopping! People were playing in the back room, folks were conversing at a terrain table to side of the cash register, and more folks were coming in as we browsed. It certainly seemed to be a thriving LGS.
The selection was good and the organization was pretty good as well. The RPG stuff was up front, there was a varied selection of D&D and Pathfinder product. Castles and Crusades, Dragon Age, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Dresden Files, and more were all represented to some degree. Board games, miniatures games and such were towards the back of the store and there appeared to be a good selection of those as well. All of the top ranked board games appeared to be there.
Things that had changed since my last visit some five years ago are that the gaming tables were in a back room. Last time I was there they crowded the front showroom making browsing tough and the store feel more cramped. The layout on this trip was much, much better. There was a terrain table to the right of the cash register and that is where the folks just chatting and passing the time were located. This was just fine as it was far enough away from the checkout area to not make it difficult to actually purchase items. The store cat was there, but the odor of a cat seemed gone.
Unfortunately they did not have Bestiary 2 that my son wanted, but he settled for Bestiary 3. They did have the second printing of the Dungeon Crawl Classics rulebook that included the index. I had been wanting that version and had been afraid to order that online as I wanted the indexed version. And my daughter, not wanting to be left out, found a pre-painted unicorn mini to satisfy her trip to the store.
I was hoping they would have a small used section to find some old treasures. I suspect Half-Price Books is a better place for these purchases now. I can’t blame them for not wanting to consume retail space on what are likely hit or miss products. And I have heard The Soldiery is better for this type of product, so I will have to check them out next.
All-in-all a successful trip to the gaming store. My son had a great time and is already interested in going back. I finally feel like I have a place to pre-order things from in the case of things like the D&D reprints or other items. And when my Reapers Minis arrive, I now have a place to stock up on extra paint at if I need it. I think I have an FLGS again.
Lesson to be learned? Don’t write off your local gaming store completely. They can change. If it has been a couple of years since you have visited the gaming store in your area, give them another shot and stop back by. Maybe they have made some improvements since you have been gone and you too can have a FLGS to call your own again.